weather icon Clear

Stars, party precede Fontainebleau’s long-awaited opening — PHOTOS

Updated December 14, 2023 - 5:56 am

We now know why Fontainebleau executives opted to open the 67-story, blue-tinted north Strip resort on Wednesday.

Following a 30-minute ribbon-cutting ceremony, a crowd of family and friends in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” to Fontainebleau Development CEO Jeffrey Soffer, who was joined on a stage by 18 contributors to the resort’s opening in the Urs Fischer Gallery for the property’s first big event. The start of the ribbon-cutting was punctuated by a line of Chinese dragon dancers that accented the international flair the property is expected to have upon opening.

Hundreds of invited guests gathered for the event and cheered comments made by Soffer’s development team and invited dignitaries. Other guests already staying at the property, some rolling their luggage from the parking garage, could also be seen on Wednesday morning.

Some celebrities spotted Wednesday evening were retired quarterback Tom Brady, singer Cher, rocker Alice Cooper, actor Bryan Cranston and actor/producer Aaron Paul, among others.

Rapid development

“When you build a building like this, it usually takes about six years to plan and build it. It’s so big and massive,” Soffer said. “So to do that in less than three years, it doesn’t happen without a great development team.”

On the Las Vegas skyline for more than a decade, the $3.7 billion Fontainebleau finally opened its doors to the public for the first time late Wednesday night. VIP guests and A-listers arrived in the evening for an invitation-only grand opening party.

Fontainebleau played up its upscale vibes during the party. Atmospheric models wandered the casino floor in white-haired wigs and floor-length white gowns with big bows on the back. Two separate big band performances kept VIP guests entertained before casino games could officially begin.

Performances by singers Paul Anka and Justin Timberlake christened the BleauLive theater for the VIP guests. Then at about five past midnight, Anka was the first to shoot the blue dice — a five and a four — on a craps table in the high-limit room.

A crowd of about a hundred stood outside on the corner of Elvis Presley and Las Vegas boulevards around 11:15 p.m., waiting for the doors to open.

But some said they had been anticipating this opening for much longer. Las Vegas resident Carlos Aguirre was among the first in line, awaiting the public opening while wearing a heated jacket.

“I’ve been living here for 23 years, I didn’t wanna miss this casino opening,” Aguirre said. “It started in 2007 and took forever. I expect the latest of the latest.”

The resort opted not to herald the opening with a fireworks show, to the surprise of many online.

“Elegant entrances sometimes outshine flashy displays,” the resort said in a reply on X. “Our allure lies not in fleeting pyrotechnics, but in the timeless beauty of our soaring towers, the exquisite dance of fountains, and the dazzling symphony of entertainment within.”

Doors opened to the public right before midnight. There was no on-site self-parking on Wednesday night for the public but those who arrived early parked for free in the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall parking lot, directly south of the resort, on a first-come, first-served basis.

The property was conceptualized by Soffer, who bought the historic Miami Beach hotel in 2005 and announced the Vegas location the same year. The building was roughly 75 percent complete when the economy crashed in 2009. Bankruptcy, changing ownership and multiple new visions came and went in the following years before Soffer’s team once again acquired the still-empty, nearly done building in 2021 with partners in Koch Real Estate Investments.

When the parking garage at the property opens, it won’t be free. Parking ticket dispensers with gates are set up in the garage. A company spokesperson indicated the public would be able to park free for up to four hours, but no other information about long-term rates was provided.

Room rates for upcoming stays at Fontainebleau have a broad range.

According to a survey of rates through Hotels.com, a midweek stay immediately after Christmas is going for $160 a night, but the following weekend leading up to New Year’s Eve is offered at $400 a night.

A midweek in mid-January, during a heavy convention period, lists prices at $696 a night, but a midweek February stay is offered at $296. Rooms don’t appear to be available on the weekend leading up to the Super Bowl in February.

‘We are indeed making history’

During the ribbon-cutting, Fontainebleau President Mark Tricano talked about Fontainebleau’s resiliency and the role employees will have in matching the service excellence of its sister property on Miami Beach.

“We are indeed making history today with the convergence of two legacies, the nearly 70-year legacy of the iconic Fontainebleau brand, with the legacy and dynamism of the Las Vegas Strip,” Tricano said. “Our story, nearly 20 years in the making, is a story of resilience, a story of passion, and a testament to the unexpected becoming of a resounding truth. As we usher in a new era of luxury hospitality, by opening our doors to the world, I would like to thank all of the people who will be on this stage.”

The ribbon-cutting event was staged in the shadow of “Lovers #3,” a 46-foot sculpture by artist Urs Fischer crafted from aluminum, stainless steel and gold leaf. It’s the centerpiece of Fontainebleau’s south lobby.

“Workplace culture is at the heart of Fontainebleau Las Vegas,” Tricano said. “Our goal in our hiring strategy was recruiting talent that aligns with our owner’s vision, bringing passionate and skilled members to the Fontainebleau Las Vegas.”

While invited guests surged toward the stage where speakers made their presentations, Fontainebleau workers offered directions and kept the new resort pristine, while construction workers roamed the public areas, putting finishing touches on the building while casino slot machines and table games stayed dormant.

Outside, landscapers spruced up plants and trees while a long line of cars wound along Elvis Presley Boulevard and Paradise Road with people trying to get in to the self-parking garage.

Miami connections

Other speakers at the ribbon-cutting included Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, who welcomed Fontainebleau to the neighborhood and should become familiar partners with the resort because of its proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall.

“Thank you for getting this done,” Hill said. “It is a remarkable achievement. It’s a remarkable commitment. It is a remarkable building. and we couldn’t be happier to welcome you to the neighborhood. We’re super excited about that.”

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, whose district includes Fontainebleau, said there’s a lot the local Fontainebleau offers that’s different from its Miami counterpart.

“Welcome to Miami of the West,” Segerblom said. “We have so much in common. “You have an ocean, we have gaming, and marijuana. But honestly, it’s a true privilege to have you here. Your art, your culture, your history is so perfect for where we are. Both Miami and Las Vegas are really on fire right now. So, it’s just a perfect marriage in my opinion.”

Soffer said executives expect Miami’s 70-year history and status as a trusted luxury brand will carry over to the new resort.

“It’s an upscale resort. It’s design-oriented and it’s a departure from theme projects,” he said as celebrities arrived Wednesday evening. “And the brand has 70 years of history so we’ve taken a lot of the DNA from the brand and brought it here to Las Vegas and that in itself will be a difference.”

DJ John Summit, opening the property’s LIV nightclub, said he was excited to be a part of the property’s first chapter because of those connections.

“It’s Miami-based and Miami is it’s own kind of feel,” Summit said of the property and his high-energy set. “It’s a very international city, it’s very vibrant and has a lot of energy. So we’re bringing it here.”

Other celebrities on the “Bleau” carpet Wednesday evening noted the connection to the historic property through emphasis on art and design.

“I remember the one in Miami,” rock singer Alice Cooper said. “I used to go to the one in Miami all the time. This is the sister to that. It’s kind of like going home week, except it doesn’t look anything like Miami.”

Cooper said the property’s opening, plus Las Vegas’ ability to pull headliners for residencies, is enticing for his band.

“I was telling everybody that vegas has become a rock-n-roll center now,” he said. “Almost all your bands come here and do residencies. That’s us, maybe after five more years of touring.”

At the Fontainebleau?

“Now that’d be great.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X. Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.